Black tea, also known as “red tea,” was discovered in China in the 17th century. Up till this point only only green and oolong teas were consumed. Black Tea came about when a Chinese army was marching for a prolonged time through the mountains and were forced to delay their progress due to the weather. This unscheduled stop led to a delay in tea production, and the tea leaves were laid out in the sun for a longer period than usual. This prolonged oxidization caused the tea leaves to turn to a dark red color. To “save” the tea and accelerate the drying process, a farmer placed the leaves over a fire of pinewood, which resulted in a tea that was smoky in flavor. This discovery produced Lapsang Souchong, the original black tea that would soon pave the way for black tea grown in China, and eventually the Western world.
Due to the fermentation process, black tea can retain and improve its flavor with age, as well as be preserved for longer periods of time. When the British traders learned about this tea and its many positive attributes, it was a dream come true as it meant that the tea could be transported throughout the world and would gain value the longer it was transported. Over time they found a new strain of the tea plant in India and cultivated this. These teas have a larger harvest at a more cost-effective rate, and the flavour is stronger with much higher levels of caffeine. Teas such as Darjeeling Earl Grey and Orange Pekoe were created by British growers in India.